Back Pain

What is Retrolisthesis?

Vertebral Column


is the term used to define a degenerative and an acute spine condition in which a single vertebra gets displaced and moves backwards onto the vertebra lying immediately below it. Vertebrae are the bones that make up the spinal column and are separated from each other by cushioning intervertebral discs.

In most of the cases, this condition is a result of the rupture or deterioration of these discs. When the disc is damaged, the vertebra lying above loses support and slips out of its position putting pressure on the vertebra below the disc. It usually occurs in the lumbar region of the spinal column, more prominent at the L3-L4 or L4-L5 levels.

Symptoms of Retrolisthesis

include stiffness in the affected area, chronic back pain that may extend to buttocks and thighs or no pain and numbness. This condition may also narrow down the spinal canal size leading to irritation of the spinal nerves.

Two main causes

of this condition have been identified.

  • Nutritional deficiency

    that may affect the strength and healing capacity of the ligaments and discs in the spinal column.

  • Physical trauma

    due to bad sitting posture, accidents, falls etc may also lead to the

    vertebral backward displacement


Three different types of Retrolisthesis

have been identified.

  1. Partial –

    The position of the affected vertebral body is posterior (backwards) to either the above vertebra or below vertebra.

  2. Stair Stepped –

    The body of the vertebra is posterior to the vertebral body above it and anterior (forward) to the vertebral body below it giving an impression of the spiral staircase.

  3. Complete –

    The vertebral body is posterior to both the above and below vertebral bodies.

This condition is usually


using side on or lateral X-ray of the spinal column. Care is taken to avoid any rotation and to expose the true lateral view of the spine.

Treatment Options:

Initial treatment strategies are aimed at controlling and reducing the pain. These include:

    1. Nutritious Food –

      Although this seems to be a very common suggestion by most of the physicians, taking nutritious food that aids in the repair of the soft tissues of the spine is very helpful. The required nutrients include:

      • Zinc

        is an essential element for the proper utilization of vitamin A. Shrimps and oysters are rich sources of zinc. Without zinc, this vitamin does not get released from the liver.

      • Vitamin A

        which aids in tissue repair can be obtained from cod liver oil, butter, orange and yellow vegetables etc.

      • Copper

        plays a key role in adding strength to ligaments and membranes by cross linking the proteins.

      • Vitamin C

        acts as a tissue builder and an antioxidant.

      • Glucosamine

        is essential for cartilage repair (1500mg/day).

      • Water

        is a required component of spinal disc cartilage and aids in the height of the intervertebral disc. The taller the disc the more taut the fibers in it.

      • Manganese

        aids in cross linking the proteins.

    1. Reposition of the displaced vertebra –

      The position of the displaced vertebra needs to be corrected in order to decrease the irritation of the nerves and to reduce unnecessary stress on the soft tissues of the spinal column.

    1. Weight Reduction –

      Being overweight puts pressure and stress on the spine that may lead to back related disorders, especially


      Hence it is advised by the doctors to maintain healthy body weight.

    1. Microcurrent Therapy –

      This technique not only stimulates tissue repair but also controls the pain. Through this therapy, the energy components of the cells (ATP) are increased. Since this is like a boost to the spine, cells can perform all tasks including cell repair effectively.

  1. Surgery –

    This treatment option should be given a nod only after trying all or some of the above therapies and the patients still do not find symptomatic relief.

Taking some precautions such as sitting in a proper posture, having nutritious food and exercising regularly can prevent



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